When I was young, in the West Riding of Yorkshire 1942 to 1960 you would greet an acquaintance thus: "Aye up serry". I believe older residents of the village of Kiveton Park still use the phrase, or one like it identifying the object of the remark as 'serry'. I wonder if this could be traced back to 'sirrah', a 16th century 'corruption' of 'sire'. Can anyone shed light on this?

  • Are you asking about 'aye up' ('a slang greeting'), or 'serry', HL42? Jul 26, 2019 at 15:48
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    Thank you for asking! It does resemble sirrah or other offshoots of sir. There is the related expression Ey up mi duck, including a book on dialect by that title (written by Richard Scollins, ‎John Titford, published in 2000). The "duck" likely relates to duke, so by analogy serry ~ sir makes sense. I wish I could be of more help. Jul 26, 2019 at 17:36
  • Also, the forum post here may be informative about serry: nottstalgia.com/forums/topic/10208-serry Jul 26, 2019 at 17:37
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    'Serry' is, or at least was in the 50s and 60s, common in Derbyshire as well. The interesting thing is that many of us could make perfect sense of Shakespearean and Biblical English because our native dialect was pretty much unchanged from the 16th century; since I was old enough to think about it I've always considered "serry" to be a surviving form of "sirrah". Having said that I'm less convinced by the derivation of "duck" from "duke" since "duck" is a term of endearment rather than respect, usually used to address children and members of the opposite sex, apparently closer to "chick".
    – BoldBen
    Jul 26, 2019 at 23:15
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    Ey up mi duck was originally self-published in several parts in 1976. I agree with @BoldBen about 'sirrah' and 'duck'. My late father (who didn't speak dialect except occasionally in fun) used to call me 'duck'. Jul 27, 2019 at 8:11

4 Answers 4


According to The Voice of England's Past New York Times 8 July 1984 by Paul West of Derbyshire, England:

"Eigh-up, serry," they call out to you, as to one another, meaning: I have noticed you, sirrah (an Elizabethan word).

I, Said the Sparrow (1963), also by Paul West, is the oldest mention of the phrase that I found and says:

[page 82] 'Thee' and 'thou' are common forms of address; you always address a male interlocutor as 'serry' (which really brought to life for me the Elizabethan 'sirrah')


[page 87] He must have been one of the few literary editors who knew what the local greeting, 'Eigh-up, serry', meant.

Also, according to the 1920 Dialect of the Staffordshire Moorlands Transactions and Annual Report of the Staffordshire Field Club, volume LIV, pages 44-53,

The farm lad is still sirrah (pronounced surrey)


The common greeting among the young farm-hands (male) is “ How go, sirrah ? ” This, of course, is common enough in Shakespeare's time, cf. Ah, sirrah ” (As You Like It, iv, 3), and “ Sirrah begone ” (Marlowe, Edward II, v, 2).

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    Best answer yet, partly because you were able to get to an alternate spelling for "aye" or "ey" that appeared in earlier sources. Nov 7, 2019 at 15:57

My father, born 1908, used this expression all his life. I remember discussing it in an English lesson(circa 1959)and coming to the conclusion that it’s a left over version of the Shakesperian/Elizabethan “sirrah”, - sir.

  • "Coming to the conclusion" how? You omitted the most relevant part.
    – Joachim
    May 30, 2020 at 9:16


sirrah, n. Brit. /ˈsɪrə/ , U.S. /ˈsɪrə/

Forms: α. 15 syra, syrra ( syrria?), 15–16 sirra. β. 15 syrha, syrrha, 15–16 sirha, sirrha. γ. 15 sirah, 16 surrah, syrrah, 16– sirrah. δ. 15 serea, serrha, 18 dialect serrah.

As can be seen, the spelling is inconsistent as it is merely an attempt to replicate a dialect. In Derbyshire, it is pronounced /ˈsʌrɛh/ (or /ˈsʌri/, with the possibility that the /i/ (here and in other dialects) is a (patronising or affectionate) diminutive.


In a South Derbyshire pit village (Castle Gresley) in the fifties, "eh up, sorry" was a standard dialect greeting. The customary response was "sorry-ah". For a time, at Ashby Grammar School, we affected this, to reflect our general savoir-faire and worldliness.

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